Media must note Glasgow is not any other news

Friday, November 5th, 2021 00:00 | By
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left), President Uhuru Kenyatta and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow yesterday. Photo/AFP

Has this been a case of missed opportunity for Kenyan media to sensitise the public on the dangers of global warming and environmental degradation?  

COP26 conference that has been going on in Glasgow has been a chance to draw attention to the environment and what the world could do to change the current trend. 

The last week has indeed been busy. All the world leaders were gathered in Glasgow in the United Kingdom to device mechanisms to save the planet. 

Kenya was not left behind. President Uhuru Kenyatta led the Kenyan delegation, and a young Kenyan environmental conservationist, Elizabeth Wathuti, has been trending following her speech at the conference.

But the Glasgow conference, COP26, has received scant attention in the Kenyan media. Granted, Kenyan journalists were in Glasgow, they sent back pictures, and anecdotes here and there. Glasgow however is bigger than these.

We have treated Glasgow like any other foreign news. In fact, a match between Manchester United and Liverpool would have received more attention in our media than the fact that COP26 was going on.

COP26 is part of a series of global movements to stir the world to action. It is now a near conventional understanding that temperatures are rising in the world. 

The earth is getting warmer, the sea levels are rising, the weather patterns across the globe and the seasons are changing and so on.

Of course, it is not universally accepted that the world is heating up because of the emission of dangerous gases, predominantly carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Former American President, Donald Trump led the denial movement through his prominent voice among those who doubted this science. 

The climate denial movement still believes in the exploitation of fossil fuel as a source of cheap energy to drive their economy.

Fast developing economies such as India and China are said to be leading offenders on this front. But they are not alone.

The dangers that the world faces are not limited to the exploitation of fossil fuel.

Pollution is another challenge. Much of this has to do with the dumping of plastic material all over the place with much of it finding its way into the water bodies and into the wild.

The devastation that this is having on animal life among others is great. And so the world has to act. 

COP26 was attended by who is who in the world leadership even if the President of China did not attend in person.

There were stirring speeches at the conference not just by the world leaders such as the British Prime Minister, or the Prime Minister of Barbados.

Even more noteworthy were the voices of youth who decry the world that their elders are leaving behind for them.

It is going to be a world that is not fit to live in. In his opening address at the conference delivered by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, noted that the world faces “a stark choice. Either we stop it – or it stops us” he said in reference to environmental degradation. 

“Enough of brutalising biodiversity, killing ourselves with carbon, treating nature like a toilet, burning and mining our way deeper,” the Secretary General said.

In the words of Guterres: “We are digging our own graves.” Seldom has a world leader spoken in such stark terms in reference to the environment. 

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke in colourful language: “We might not feel like James Bond, or look like James Bond, but COP26 must be the start of defusing that bomb. Yes, it is going to be hard, but yes, we can do it.”

But here at home it has been near silence in our media. It is hard to mobilise and sensitise the public to respond to environmental preservation. 

We can’t lose the COP26 opportunity. This is the chance for feature articles and documentaries, soft stories that focus attention on the issues. Media should not lose an opportunity to tell such an important story. —The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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